The effect of egg size and habitat on starling nestling growth and survival
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In spite of the fact that hatchling size and energy reserves in birds are affected by egg size, many studies have failed to find an effect of egg size on offspring fitness. One possibility is that this is because they have been performed in areas with high food availability and that effects of egg size on offspring fitness are most apparent in areas of low food availability. To investigate this, egg size,␣offspring mass and survival of European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) were measured in an agricultural landscape with a low but variable amount of pasture, the preferred foraging habitat of parent starlings. Offspring mass was related to egg size, but egg size explained a declining proportion of the variation in nestling mean mass as nestlings grew older. Offspring survival during the early, but not during the late nestling period was related to egg size. Throughout the nestling␣period, survival was related to the mass of the nestlings. It is suggested that the effect of egg size on␣offspring survival is through the effect of egg size on offspring mass, this effect declining as offspring grow older. Offspring survival during the early part of the nestling period was related to egg size when availability of pasture was low, but not when it was high. However, the interaction was not significant. Selection for␣larger egg size is discussed in relation to the structuring␣of starling populations into sources and sinks.
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